Your First Week Home After Delivery

Congrats! The longest 40 weeks (give or take) of your life have come and gone, and now you’re finally home with your baby! That first week home after having a baby will be wonderful. It will also be messy and tiring. It’s time to transition from pregnancy to postpartum life, which means finding the right balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your baby. 

Taking Care of You

Postpartum Bleeding and Perineum Healing

Postpartum bleeding is normal and temporary. Vaginal postpartum bleeding, also known as lochia, is the discharge of blood and mucus that starts after delivery. Your body is getting rid of all the extra blood, mucus, and tissue it needed during pregnancy.

Typically lochia is a lot heavier than your usual menstrual period, and the heaviest bleeding will last 3-10 days. It will taper off to lighter bleeding or spotting and could last 4-6 weeks after delivery. 

Tips for Recovery

  • For the first 6 weeks, use only pads
  • Choose clothes and underwear that are breathable, comfortable, and you don’t care about accidentally staining

Call Dr If:

  • You notice very large clots (lemon sized or larger)
  • The bleeding is soaking through a maxi pad every hour
  • Bleeding has a foul smell 
  • Faintness, breathlessness, dizziness or a racing heart
  • Nausea, vomiting, fever, chills
  • Swelling and pain around the vagina or perineum

Postpartum Cramping and Swelling

After delivering your baby, you’ll have more contractions immediately as your body delivers the placenta. Then, over the following days and up to 2 weeks, you might continue to experience cramping as your uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size. Cramping while breastfeeding can get more intense, but over-the-counter pain relievers, gentle massages, deep breathing will help ease discomfort. 

You are probably over all the swelling at this point, but your body might not be there just yet. All the extra fluid you accumulated during those nine months will take some time to disappear and that’s totally normal. You might experience postpartum swelling in your legs, feet, or face and your perineum after a vaginal birth or your incision if you had a c-section.

Here’s a few tips for getting rid of the postpartum swelling:

  • Drink a lot of water
  • Keep moving (but don’t over do it)
  • Elevate your legs when lying or sitting
  • Reduce your sodium intake
  • Use compression stockings

Call Dr If:

  • You experience sudden swelling
  • You feel pain or irritation in your leg along with swelling
  • One leg is more swollen than the other leg, and/or there’s redness, cramping and increased warmth along with swelling in one leg
  • You notice swelling plus you’re experiencing severe headaches, vomiting, blurred vision or sensitivity to light
  • You have chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Your C-section scar is swollen and accompanied by increasing pain, bleeding or foul discharge or fluid

Sore Breasts

Personally, as a new mother, one of the things I was so shocked by was the breast pain after delivery and in the weeks following as my milk came in. I called my doctor in a panic about the intense tingling I felt about every 2.5-3 hours in my breasts only to learn that it was my milk “letting down”. So here’s the deal:

Stage 1 is the colostrum stage which is the first milk you’ll produce that’s full of antibodies, white blood cells, and nutrients for your newborn. 

Stage 2 is transitional milk which happens 3-4 days postpartum. You’ll notice breast engorgement, tightened skin on breasts and areolas, and leaking milk. 

Stage 3 is your fully mature milk and this transition happens a few weeks postpartum. This milk is thin, white (sometimes blueish), and contains all the fat and nutrients your little one needs.

Engorgement is when your breasts swell and become hard and tender. It’s normal, but it’s painful. 

Here’s a few things you can do:

  • Nurse often and on demand
  • Hand express of pump (Don’t express too much though, this could make engorgement worse by stimulating milk flow. Just express enough to relieve the discomfort.)
  • Apply a warm compress
  • Place chilled, clean, green cabbage leaves on each breast

C-section Recovery and Wound Care

Labor and delivery of any kind can put a lot of trauma on the body. And while generally, doctors recommend a minimum of 6 weeks recovery postpartum, C-section recovery time can take 6-12 weeks. 

Things to Know:

  • Exercise – Walking and moving will help with healing, but it’s important to not over exert yourself and keep your activity level low. 
  • Driving – You won’t be able to drive for at least two weeks so plan accordingly! 
  • Bathing – You won’t be able to submerge into water (bath or pool) until your incision is healed. Showers will be ok and just be gentle about patting your incision area dry. 
  • Breastfeeding – Getting comfortable after a c-section is one of the most difficult things for most moms. When it comes to breastfeeding, the football hold and side-lying positions are some of the most friendly for recovery.
  • Sex – For both vaginal and c-section deliveries, doctors recommend waiting 6 weeks, but always get your doctor’s green light first!
  • Healing – Keep your incision clean and avoid irritating it. Wear breathable fabrics to let the scar heal.
  • Pain – Over-the-counter pain medication is safe to take if you’re nursing or whatever else your healthcare provider has prescribed. Heating pads are also a great solution.

Postpartum Diet and Nutrition

There’s a lot of opinions out there about diets, nutrition, and best practices. Everyone is different and it’s important to do what’s right and doable for you. Adding expectations and requirements to an already overwhelming time isn’t necessary. But if you feel up to it, eating healthy and whole foods is going to be best for your recovery. If you’re nursing or pumping, you will most likely notice an increased appetite. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Enjoy all these moments with your little one. 

Personally, I found the book, The First Forty Days, to be so helpful and enlightening. The authors discuss a lot about hormones, vitamins, nutrients, and more when it comes to the 4th trimester. It’s a great resource for understanding what’s happening and how to support your healing body and mind. 

Postpartum Recovery Checklist

    • Maxi Pads
    • Disposable Underwear
    • Instant Ice Packs
    • Peri Rinse Bottle
    • Witch Hazel Pads
    • Perineal Spray
    • Stool Softener
    • Breast Pads
    • Nursing Bra
    • Water Bottle

Here are a few extra tips on postpartum recovery:

Sign up for our postpartum email series for more tips, tricks, and encouragement for your first 40 days.

Taking Care of Your Newborn

Skincare and Bathing

It’s not necessary for babies to bathe every day, although it’s a nice routine to start. Before the umbilical cord falls off (or before a circumcision is healed), sponge baths are the way to go to prevent infection. Once the cord has fallen, into a safe infant bath they go!

Your baby’s skin is extra sensitive so many sure to purchase gentle and natural products. It’s best to use products without fragrances this early on, but there are newborn skincare products that sometimes use baby safe essential oils like lavender. Baby’s skin can be prone to getting dry so lotion is your friend!

Talc-free baby powders are an option for keeping little bums dry, but can often make a mess. Diaper creams are a great way to go too.

Finally, be careful with sun exposure! Keep them in the shade when possible and if it’s not possible, find a high SPF baby-friendly sunscreen and lather them up!

Umbilical Cord Care

The stump should dry and fall off by the time your baby is 5 to 15 days old. Keep the stump clean with gauze and water only and let it fall off naturally even if it’s hanging by a thread. Keep an eye out for infection, but if you keep it clean it should be fine!

Newborn Pee and Poop

This first stool is called meconium, and its usually black and tar-like. (Hospitals generally won’t send a baby home if they haven’t pooped in the first 24 hours.)

According to the Children’s Hospital of Chicago, “Within the first few days, newborns transition to regular stool, which is generally yellow. The color is similar for both breastfed and formula-fed babies. But in babies who breastfeed, the texture tends to be very seed-like. This stool is generally soft — liquid almost. Some newborns poop five times a day; others only poop every five days. If your newborn poops less frequently, but they are eating regularly and their stool is soft and appears typical, then that’s normal for your baby.”

Most babies pee at least 2 but often many more times in the day and pee will be a normal yellow color. Some parents like to track how often their baby is peeing and pooping so they know what’s normal for their little one. 

Call Dr If:

  • Poop is black for more than a few days
  • There is red in poop
  • Poop is white
  • Stools are hard and baby is struggling

Newborn Feeding

Hungry babies will cry, but after time you will start to notice hunger cues before they start crying. Crying can actually be a late sign for hunger and it may be more difficult to get them to settle and eat. 

Look for signs like: 

  • Licking lips
  • Sticking tongue out
  • Rooting (moving jaw and mouth or head in search of breast)
  • Putting hand to mouth repeatedly
  • Opening mouth
  • Fussiness
  • Sucking on everything around

Take note that babies also cry or suck for comfort too. Not always for hunger. It may not seem like it at first, but as time goes on you will begin to learn your little one’s cues and their schedule so you can make these decisions more quickly!

Most newborns eat every 2 to 3 hours, or 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. They’re also pretty good at taking the exact amount that they need. It will increase over time. Infants who are bottle fed are more likely to overeat because drinking from a bottle is easier and you’ll notice them getting fussy with gas or spitting up if that’s the case. 

Typically babies will double their birth weight by 5 months of age. Your pediatrician will be carefully tracking their weight gain and what’s normal for your little one. If you’re concerned they are gaining too little or too much weight talk to your provider for suggestions.

Newborn Sleep

Your baby’s sleep patterns will change over time. I can tell you from experience, as soon as you think you’ve found a rhythm, something is likely to change too. It’s normal. And you will sleep again. In that first week home, go with the flow. Try not to force a schedule. It’s more important to get to know each other and learn your new rhythm together. 

Check out this page from the Sleep Foundation for more info on newborn sleep schedules. 

For best safe sleep practices, consult the AAP Safe Sleep site for the most recent recommendations.

Bonding

Whether you’re a first-time parent or a seasoned veteran, every child is different. You might feel like you picked up on your first one easily and the next comes and their cues are a mystery! (That was definitely my experience.) Whether you are feeling an instant bond or struggling to connect to your little one, both feelings are normal! 

Learning your baby’s cues and body language will be a life-long journey of understanding each other and what your unique needs are.

To promote bonding, we recommend BABYWEARING! We are so passionate about the scientific benefits that babywearing has on both caregivers and their children. Check this out:

In a recent study, “mothers who primarily choose babywearing for transporting their baby were shown to be more responsive to their babies, even when not wearing their babies. These mothers were overall more responsive to baby as well as more engaged with infants’ positive emotion, suggesting these mothers were not simply attuned to comforting or minimizing baby’s distress.” 

First Doctor’s Visit

Your little one will have their first well-check visit 3-5 days after delivery. Your doctor will be examining the baby’s full body, so dress them in clothing that is easy to take on and off. Packing your diaper bag with the usual essentials is really all you need! 

A nurse will weigh and measure your little one before you see the doctor. The pediatrician will examine your baby’s neck and collarbone (some baby’s break their collarbone during delivery). They will check their head, hips, reflexes, pulse, and genitalia to make sure everything looks healthy and normal. They will check in with you on baby’s sleeping and feeding patterns so far and answer any questions you have. If you DO have questions, write them down so you can remember! 

Remember to be patient, be flexible and be sure to ask your support people for help if you’re feeling overworked or overwhelmed. But perhaps most importantly, that first week home after delivery is the time to trust your natural parenting instincts and enjoy your new baby!

After the Newborn Stage, What’s Next?

Sources:

https://www.babylist.com/hello-baby/c-section-recovery

https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/breastfeeding/when-does-breast-milk-come-in#:~:text=Timing%3A%20Between%20day%2010%20and,and%20nutrients%20your%20baby%20needs.

https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/postpartum-health-and-care/postpartum-swelling/

https://www.babycenter.com/baby/postpartum-health/postpartum-cramps-afterpains_11723#:~:text=Postpartum%20cramping%20happens%20as%20your,within%20a%20week%20or%20two.

https://www.luriechildrens.org/en/blog/what-to-know-about-newborn-poop-and-pee/

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/How-Often-and-How-Much-Should-Your-Baby-Eat.aspx

Vittoria Allen

Vittoria is a writer based in San Diego. A lover of good food, slow living, and a good novel, she shares her life with her husband and two daughters trying to squeeze out the beauty in every moment.

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