Day 4 and the reality of having a new baby at home may really be dawning. This is probably apparent in both your body and your mind, with your breasts now feeling fuller and heavier and, for many, the onset of some strong feelings.
Will I experience the baby blues?
By Day 4 you may well be feeling what some people call the baby blues. Perhaps you’ll just be a bit low in mood or you may be unusually emotional and volatile. You might find yourself experiencing thoughts and feelings that you feel are unusual or inappropriate for a new parent; you might even be crying a lot, despite knowing you are so very lucky to have a healthy baby by your side.
But don’t worry, this all completely normal and very common. In fact, most new mothers experience some form of the baby blues, whether they feel teary, irritable, sad, or something else they feel is equally mystifying.
When you consider all that your body has been through during nine months of pregnancy plus hours if not days of childbirth this should hardly be surprising. Your body is producing hormones and chemicals at extreme levels in the four days after delivery and the way you feel now is a direct consequence of this.
However, even without these physiological changes, you also have the enormous emotional reality of a new baby in your life, and this can be exacerbated if you experienced a difficult labour or post-birth complications for your baby, such as jaundice or issues around getting him to latch on to your nipple.
For the most part, with support from your midwife, partner and other family and friends, the baby blues will dissipate within a few weeks. If they don’t, it may mean that you are experiencing postnatal depression (PND) and this could be a good time to speak to your GP.
What can partners do?
“Nothing right,” may be the answer for many new mothers. But don’t worry partners, it’s not all your fault. Once post-labour endorphins fizzle out, new mothers have to contend with pain in intimate places, heavy bleeding, sleeplessness, feeding-related troubles and more. If partners stay strong and supportive without taking any criticism too personally, they’ll help the whole family get through to the other side.
It is common for new mothers to take on most, if not all of the early care. This is normal but so too is letting dad have his turn at holding and comforting baby – fairly easy if you are bottle feeding, but more difficult if you are breast feeding – allowing your partner to have close contact with the baby in the first few days is really important (and will give you, the mum, a little space and time).
It is up to individual couples to decide which strategy works best for them. If dad is hands-on at this early stage, it may be a good idea to let him find his way without instruction at every single turn as he is likely to have his own innate nurturing instincts that have been latently lurking through all his pre-child years.
How do I comfort my crying baby?
Babies cry for a number of reasons:
- They are hungry or thirsty
- They are wet or dirty
- They have wind
- They are tired
- They are too hot or too cold
Once you have exhausted resolving any of the above as a cause for your crying baby, it may just be that your newborn wants a bit of attention.
At four days old, your baby is still fresh out of the womb. He will respond well to any interactions that help to recreate the comfort and security felt in utero. So hold, soothe, shush, swaddle and sway your baby. When he is not feeding he may be comforted by sucking your finger.
How often should a newborn poo?
On day four you can expect your baby to have around three to six bowel movements a day. This should mean that he is feeding enough and hopefully by now is beginning to gain weight. Contact your doctor if the stools are at all red or if they are colourless.
What about bathing baby?
You should not put your baby fully into a bath until his umbilical cord falls off. Instead, you can “top and tail” him by gently wiping him with warm water. For the topping part, use a fresh piece of dampened cotton wool for each of your baby’s eyes and fresh cotton wool for ears and the folds behind the ears and around the neck. Don’t worry about soap at this stage, water will do the job perfectly.
To tail your baby, just use some fresh, dampened cotton wool to clean his bottom half, paying attention to folds of skin, genitals and bottom. For this, you might find it easier to use sensitive baby wipes as they are likely to cope with poo better than plain water.
If your baby still has remnants of vernix on his skin, just leave it; vernix is a natural cleanser and is good for the skin.
Will I ever recover from the pain of labour?
The first week following the birth of a child is likely to be very painful for new mothers and when you add this pain to the inevitable tiredness that is felt post-labour, it is understandable that so many mothers wonder if they will ever recover.
However, you will survive this – your body has evolved to bounce back from childbirth – and within only a few weeks the pain will dissipate and within a few months you’ll find that you are regaining some of your old vitality. If you are still coping with painful stitches, keep a check on them and ask your midwife to take a look. Sometimes, just letting the air get to your intimate places can be a really good thing – try lying on a towel on your bed with no underwear on and your legs open wide. This can help your stitches heal and offer some relief from the pain.
What should I eat after childbirth?
Yes, we know you have a lot on your mind at the moment, but being mindful about what you eat will be positive for both your baby and you, especially if you’re breast feeding. If you eat healthily then you are likely to recover from giving birth more easily than if you eat junk food or, worse, don’t eat much at all. A good diet will give you a better chance of staying physically and emotionally healthy too.
Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains to receive the nutrients you need; they’ll also help you keep regular in your bowel movements. Why not read our article, written by Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, on diet and cardiometabolic health, post birth.
Lastly, be sure to drink plenty of water.
Bathing after childbirth
Good body hygiene can help you feel fresher and perhaps a bit more like your old self. Twenty minutes alone in the bathroom can also be a valuable break from new motherhood. Let your partner, family members or a friend look after your baby for a while every day, so you can at least wash, bathe or do your hair. If possible, you should shower or bathe once a day in the first few days after childbirth, but avoid strong chemical shower gels or bubble baths as these may irritate your already painful vaginal area. Plain, warm water will do everything you need and will soothe any tears, stitches or piles.
If your blood flow (lochia) is still very heavy at this stage, has a strong odour or contains large clots, you should speak to your doctor or midwife.
How do I get help with a new baby?
Your body has recently been through two of the biggest physical upheavals known to humans – first pregnancy and then childbirth – you are in physical pain, you lack sleep, your hormones are wreaking havoc and you have new life in your care for, more or less, twenty-four hours a day; it is little wonder you might feel a little troubled at times.
Against this background it is important to remember: you are doing a great job, and that there is no more important job in all of the world. Allow yourself to accept that feeding, nurturing and ensuring the welfare of both yourself and your new baby are all you have to do. Hopefully, your partner, family and friends are on hand to help, but if you are alone (or feel alone) there are several people and organisations who can help:
- Midwife/health visitor
- Cry-sis – support for parents with crying or sleepless babies
- Samaritans – phone contact for anyone who needs emotional support 24 hours a day
My Baby Manual has a wealth of information available for new parents – all available at the touch of a keyboard, 24/7.