After a hospital or birth centre birth: what birthing mothers can expect
If you had your baby in a public hospital, private hospital or birth centre, 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 you do stay in hospital overnight, your partner or a family member might be able to stay with you.
Your hospital stay might be longer if you have a medical condition, your baby needs extra care or your labour or birth was assisted – for example, a forceps birth or caesarean birth. In these situations you might stay in hospital for 2-5 days.
If your baby was born prematurely, your baby will 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
It helps to know about your recovery and how to get support in your first weeks at home with your baby. Before you leave hospital you or your partner might like to ask:
- who to contact for breastfeeding support
- where to go for your 6-week check-up
- whether you can drive or lift and carry 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 these professionals.
You can also ask about caring for your new baby. For example, it’s good to know things like:
- how many feeds your newborn might need and how long feeds might take
- how to recognise your baby’s cues for comfort and feeding
- who to call if you or your baby is sick
- how to contact your local child and family health nurse and how the nurse can help you.
Your midwife or doctor will give you this information as part of your care.
It’s a good idea to ask friends or family members for help with practical jobs like washing baby clothes, buying nappies and filling your fridge and pantry with healthy foods.
After a homebirth: what birthing mothers can expect
If you had a homebirth, your midwife will stay with you on the day of birth until you and your baby are stable and breastfeeding has started. This usually happens around 3-4 hours after birth.
Your homebirth midwife will keep giving you and your baby care and support until your baby is about 6 weeks old.
Your feelings in the first week after birth
Whether you’ve given birth in hospital, at a birth centre or at home, your body has been through a lot. The good news is that you’ll start to heal, and you can usually manage pain and discomfort.
Most birthing mothers 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 for only a few days.
It can really help to talk regularly with someone you trust about how you’re feeling – your partner, a family member or trusted friend. This helps both of you to be aware of any changes in your mood and how long the changes go on for.
If the blue feelings don’t go away after 2 weeks, it might be postnatal depression. It’s important to seek help. When birthing mothers get help early, they usually recover fully from postnatal depression.
Home visits from a midwife or child and family health nurse
If you’ve had a homebirth, 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, a midwife or child and family health nurse will usually visit you at home in the week after you leave the hospital. They’ll check on you and your baby, and answer your questions. Some new birthing mothers also 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 to breastfeed
Breastfeeding can take time, practice and patience. Finding a breastfeeding technique that works for you and your baby can make all the difference.
It can help to have as much skin-to-skin contact as possible and to keep your baby close to you in the early hours and days.
It can often take several weeks before you feel confident with breastfeeding.
If you have any problems with breastfeeding, talk with 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 a week.
Learning about baby care
If you’re a first-time parent, there’s a lot for you to learn about caring for your new baby. For example, you’ll probably need to learn about:
- breastfeeding or bottle-feeding
- changing nappies
- bathing your baby
- finding a newborn routine
- safe sleeping for babies.
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 parent, it’s still good to have support, especially if you have other children to look after.
Depending on your family situation, a small number of hospitals offer free or low-cost home help with general cleaning and shopping for a few weeks after you go home. Ask the midwife about what your hospital offers. And if you have a private health fund, you can check to see whether these home services are covered.
Eating and drinking
In the early days, you might have less time to cook healthy meals. But healthy eating and drinking helps you keep your energy up to care for your baby.
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.
Another way to save time is to shop online and have your groceries delivered.
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. For example, you can say no to visitors who are unwell. And it’s important for your other children and close family members to be up to date with immunisations before meeting the baby.
Some new birthing mothers give the job of managing visitors to their partners or a trusted friend. For example, they might ask family and friends to come 2 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 voicemail and switch your mobile phone to silent.
Other parents can be a great source of help and support. If you join a local or online parent group, you can share ideas and experiences with other new parents.