The moment you’ve been waiting 40 long weeks (or longer) for is finally here.
Maybe you laboured for a long time. Maybe it was short and intense. Maybe you had to make some last-minute changes to your birth plan, or maybe you had the birth of your dreams. No matter how it happened, the best part is usually when it’s all over and the baby you’ve been waiting all this time for is finally here, in your arms.
The first few hours after you give birth can be pretty surreal. You’ll probably be sore and uncomfortable, and you might be surprised at just how exhausted you feel. If you’ve had an epidural or a cesarean, you may not be able to move your legs yet. And if you didn’t, you may find it difficult to do things like get out of bed alone or sit on the toilet. You may feel shocked, elated, or confused by your birth (or a million other emotions), and you’ll probably be swimming in hormones and love for your new baby. All summed up: those first few hours (also known as the fourth stage of labour) are raw, vulnerable, and intense.
These early hours are a part of your labour and birth experience. Just like during labour, it’s important to have support and to know what to expect, so that you can feel calm, relaxed, and focused on your baby during their first hours of life. Though most of the real excitement ends after your baby and placenta are delivered, there may still be a lot of activity going on around you, and it may feel difficult to think straight (check out our post on Decision Making During Labour for more info on why this is!).
Just like making decisions during labour, you’ll want to make decisions during this early postpartum period that support your goals for your overall birth experience. Here are some things you may want to think about ahead of time (the fewer decisions you need to make in the moment, the better!).
Don’t be in a rush to make the announcement.
After birth, you’ll be flying high on adrenaline, excitement, and love, and those powerful feelings often make new parents want to shout their baby’s arrival from the rooftops. You did it! Your baby is here, and the whole world should know! We totally agree. Sharing the news of your baby’s arrival is often on the top of the to-do list after things calm down in the delivery room. However, there’s one problem: The whole world doesn’t always know how to handle this exciting news. As soon as you leak the news, you may be opening a floodgate of celebratory texts, phone calls, or even surprise visits. Unless you have really firm boundaries with your friends and family, you may find yourself spending more time fielding questions and sending pictures than you do actually bonding with your new baby. Consider delaying the big announcement until at least a few hours later, after your baby’s first feed and after you’ve had some sleep. Sharing this news is exciting, and you’ll want to be fully present to experience your family’s reactions. Plus, there’s something pretty amazing about the secret of a brand-new baby!
There’s no such thing as too much skin to skin.
Holding your baby skin-to-skin is a really big deal. It’s one of the best ways to help them transition from womb to world, to help your baby feel safe and secure (hello, bonding), and to promote breastfeeding. Seriously: it can be life-saving. Just like all mammals, our babies have a natural habitat, and that’s skin-to-skin on their parent’s chest. Your baby is hardwired to crave skin-to-skin contact with you, and it’s especially important to provide this during the first four hours of life as your baby is transitioning, figuring out breathing, and as they’re investigating breastfeeding. Wherever possible, hold your baby nice and close with no clothing in the way and a warm blanket covering both of you. When you need to switch, have your partner do the same for continuous skin contact for baby. Aim for several hours a day- and continue the routine when you’re home from the hospital!
That first nap is critical.
After birth, your baby will also be experiencing a rush of adrenaline and oxytocin that help them bond and connect with you. During the first hour or two, babies are bright eyed, active, and wide awake as they take in the world, the new sensations, and their parents. This is prime bonding time! After their first feeding, most babies are ready for a good, long nap. Also known as the “recovery sleep”, this nap that may be longer and deeper than your baby’s naps in the next few days. Being born is hard work! Even though it’s next to impossible to stop staring at your new baby, consider using this long, deep sleep to your advantage and get some sleep yourself. Even if you feel great, your body needs to recover and sleep is important. The second night of a newborn’s life is notoriously more difficult, so stock up on sleep while you can and definitely sleep while the baby sleeps this time.