After birth: what to expect and plan for
The moment your baby is born and the hours after birth can be very special, but there’s usually a lot going on too. What happens straight after birth will depend on how your baby is born and whether your baby and partner are well.
To get ready for this time, you and your pregnant partner could talk together during pregnancy about how you’d like to spend the first few hours. For example, you might think about how to:
- make sure your baby has skin-to-skin contact
- let your partner rest and start recovering from birth
- get your partner started with breastfeeding if possible
- support your partner with bottle-feeding if breastfeeding isn’t possible.
It’s also worth talking about how and when to contact your family and friends and when to have visitors.
Skin-to-skin contact after birth
In the hour immediately after birth, skin-to-skin contact is good for your baby. It can help with:
- keeping your baby warm
- stabilising your baby’s heart rate and breathing rate
- keeping your baby’s blood sugar at the right level
It’s best for babies to have skin-to-skin contact with their birthing mother. While your partner has skin-to-skin contact, you could place your hand on your baby or let your baby hold your finger. And if your partner can’t have skin-to-skin contact for any reason, your baby will benefit from having skin-to-skin contact with you.
Even if your baby needs extra care or has to go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care nursery after birth, you can still have skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact with a sick or premature baby might start with holding your baby’s hand or putting your hands on your baby’s head, feet or back. Ask the staff in the NICU about having skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
As your baby grows and develops in the weeks after birth, skin-to-skin contact might help with settling and sleep, brain development, soothing and bonding.
When your baby is awake, your baby will want to be held so that they can see your face or your partner’s face. The combination of being held and seeing your face stimulates your baby’s brain and makes baby feel calm and safe.
Helping your partner recover from birth
Your partner, your baby and you will all need to recover from the physical effects and emotions of the birth.
But after giving birth, your partner in particular will need time to rest and recover. This is because your partner will probably:
- feel very tired
- have some vaginal bleeding and soreness around the vagina or caesarean wound
- have afterpains and nipple or breast tenderness.
One of the best ways to help your partner rest and recover from either vaginal or caesarean birth is by getting hands on with your baby. This might include bathing your baby, changing nappies and bringing your baby to your partner for breastfeeds.
You might feel excited, enthusiastic or a bit nervous about newborn baby care. If you’re not sure about what to do, you can ask a midwife. Also, if you or your partner have questions about anything that happened during labour and birth, it’s a good idea to ask a midwife or doctor.
Recovery from caesarean might take up to 6 weeks. If your partner has had a caesarean, you might need to keep doing most of the baby care in these first 6 weeks, as well as looking after your partner. You might need to change your plans for going back to work or organise some extra help for your partner.
Just keep checking in to see what your partner needs and wants, and work together to care for your baby during this time.
Getting involved is great for bonding with your baby. It helps you get to know your baby’s needs and respond to your baby with love, warmth and care. When you do this, you build your relationship with your baby. Your baby also feels safe and secure, which lays the foundation for all areas of your baby’s development.
Supporting your breastfeeding partner
Breastfeeding is something you can do as a team. In fact, your support for breastfeeding can help your partner get started and go on to breastfeed for longer.
You can help by learning about breastfeeding yourself, perhaps by reading and watching videos about how to breastfeed.
You can also help by doing things like changing your baby’s nappies and holding, cuddling or settling your baby after breastfeeds.
And you can give your partner practical support – a glass of water, another pillow or whatever your partner needs.
If your partner has trouble with breastfeeding, you can reassure your partner that it’s OK to get some extra help. You have many support options:
- the midwives in the hospital
- a lactation consultant
- your local child and family health nurse or GP
- the Australian Breastfeeding Association Helpline – phone 1800 686 268 – or LiveChat service.
It’s best to find a support option that makes you feel safe and respected – for example, one that respects your religious and cultural background, your parenting arrangements, your family diversity and so on.
It’s possible for some people who haven’t been pregnant or given birth to breastfeed. This can happen with induced lactation. If you’re interested in knowing more, go to Australian Breastfeeding Association – Relactation and induced lactation.