For new mums, the first weeks after your baby is born can be happy and exciting. But it’s also normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed. It helps to have some idea of what to expect after the birth, when you leave the birth centre or hospital and when you’re at home with your new baby.
New mums: the first week after birth
After a hospital birth
If you had your baby in hospital, you and your baby will probably stay in hospital for at least 24 hours.
If you’re both well enough, you might be encouraged to go home earlier. If you want to go earlier or stay longer, or you’re not sure, it’s OK to talk with your doctor or midwife.
If your labour or birth was assisted – such as a forceps birth or caesarean birth – if you have a medical condition or if your baby needs extra care, you and your baby will probably stay in hospital for 2-5 days.
If your baby was born prematurely, he’ll probably need to stay in hospital for longer in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or the special care nursery (SCN).
Before you leave hospital
There’s some information for new mums that will be really helpful in your first weeks at home with your baby. Before you leave hospital you or your partner might like to ask about the following things:
- who to contact for breastfeeding support
- how to recognise your baby’s cues for comfort and feeding
- how many feeds your newborn might need and how long feeds might take
- who to call if you or your baby is sick
- how to contact your local child and family health nurse and what support the nurse can provide
- where to go for your six-week check-up
- whether you need to be careful about driving or lifting and carrying heavy things
- when and where to have your stitches taken out (if you have them)
- whether the hospital has a lactation consultant or women’s health physiotherapist and how to contact this professional.
Your midwife or doctor will give you this information as part of your care.
If you haven’t already washed the baby clothes, bought nappies and filled your fridge and pantry with healthy foods, it’s a good idea to ask a friend or family member for help with these practical jobs.
After a home birth
If you gave birth at home, your midwife will stay with you on the day of birth until you and your baby are stable and breastfeeding has started.
Your homebirth midwife will keep giving you and your baby care and support until your baby is about six weeks old.
Whether you’ve given birth at home or in hospital, your body has been through a lot. The good news is that you will start to heal, and you can usually manage pain and discomfort.
Most women will feel tired and overwhelmed soon after giving birth. You might also feel relief, happiness, fear and joy. You might feel teary and anxious 3-5 days after birth – this is called the ‘baby blues’. The ‘baby blues’ last only for a few days, and about 50-80% of women have them.
You’ll probably start to feel like yourself again in a week or two. If the blue feeling stays, it’s important to seek help. For 1 in every 7 women these feelings become postnatal depression (PND)
. When women get help early, they usually recover fully from PND.
Learning to breastfeed
Breastfeeding can sometimes be tricky for new mums, but finding a breastfeeding technique that works for you and your baby can make all the difference. Keeping your baby close to you, with as much skin-to-skin contact as possible in the early hours and days can help. It’s normal for it to take up to a couple of weeks to really get the hang of breastfeeding.
If you have any problems breastfeeding, ask your midwife or a lactation consultant, or contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association. You can phone the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 (24 hours, 7 days).
Being at home with your baby
For new mums, the first few days at home with your baby can be exciting and challenging, whether you’ve had a home or hospital birth.
If you’ve had a home birth, your homebirth midwife will visit you regularly (daily at first) and then less often, depending on how much help you and your baby need.
If you’ve had a hospital birth, you might miss having the midwives nearby. But a midwife or child and family health nurse will usually visit you at home in the week after you leave the hospital to check on you and your baby and answer your questions. Some new mums choose to see a private lactation consultant.
If you have other urgent questions or worries, you can call the parenting helpline in your state or territory. You can also make an appointment with your GP or your local child and family health centre.
Learning about baby care
If you’re a first-time mum, there’s a lot for you to learn about caring for your new baby. For example:
Taking it easy
Sometimes a good day will be just feeding and comforting your baby, getting out of your pyjamas and having a shower. This is totally fine. Try to rest whenever you can, and give yourself time to get to know your baby.
It’s also good to have someone you trust to support you for the first few days – for example, your partner, a family member or a friend. If you’re not a first-time mum, it’s still good to have support, especially if you have another child to look after.
Eating and drinking
Some days it can be hard to make time to cook a healthy meal, even though you know healthy eating and drinking are important. If friends and family offer to cook meals for you, accept them. You can also buy prepared meals, soups and salads for the days when time is short.
Family and friends will be excited to see you and your baby. They’ll want to visit you at home.
It’s OK for you to say how and when you’d like visitors. Some new mums give the job of managing visitors to their partners or a trusted friend – for example, they might ask family and friends to come two at a time or to wait a few days before visiting.
It can help to put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your front door, use your answering machine and switch your mobile phone to silent.
Other parents can be a great source of help and support. Share ideas and experiences with other new mums in our mums forum
or our forum for parents of newborns