By Day 7 most mums will be at home with their new baby.
Unless your baby was born prematurely and/or has health problems, or you suffered complications as a result of labour and delivery, the hospital staff will do their best to get you home, so that you can get on with adjusting to life as a new parent.
If you have already been at home with your baby for a number of days, you’re probably just about adapting to your new life. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you will be used to it yet. In fact, it is likely that you are beginning to appreciate the upheaval; baby is feeding, sleeping and growing and you are there to help her along the way with all three. This means you are going to need plenty of rest and recovery.
I’m at the end of the first week, shouldn’t I be feeling great right now?
You have just spent nine months incubating and nourishing new life. Your blood volume has nearly tripled. Your organs and musculoskeletal system have been under major strain; it should be no surprise if you feel fatigued and depleted. Right now your priority should be to take as much time as you need to look after your new baby AND yourself. Rest is essential to your postpartum recovery.
If you experienced a vaginal birth you should be mindful of the incredible stress and strain this has caused on your uterus in order to allow the free passage of a whole new person into the world. Tears, swelling and haemorrhoids will take time to heal, while the emotional and psychological stress of the experience may still need processing.
If you had a caesarean, the incision will not yet have healed fully. You could still be feeling the effect of any resulting blood loss and of course the fact of pregnancy itself will mean you are still in recovery. In fact, you are now recovering from pregnancy and major surgery. No wonder you may be taking some time to adjust.
Whatever the case, the placenta has now left your body and you have a wound inside you that requires healing. If you do not get enough rest and good nutrition, you could suffer complications such as pelvic prolapse, uterine incontinence, anaemia, infection, postnatal depression and more. You should give yourself at least six weeks before you consider yourself ‘healed’ following childbirth; eight weeks if you had a C-section.
What can I do about sore and cracked nipples?
The main reason behind sore and cracked nipples is usually the positioning and attachment of your baby, and by seeking help and advice on this element, rather than just trying to cure the soreness, you stand a better chance of helping your breastfeeding journey run a little smoother.
It can be helpful to keep your nipples dry when not feeding (although allowing breast milk to dry on your nipples will help them to heal naturally). Also, wear bras and tops that are comfortable and will not cause irritation, natural materials such as cotton are best. Change your breast pads regularly, at least after each feed and try to find pads without a plastic backing.
Don’t use soap on your breasts as this can dry out the skin.
Some women swear by pure lanolin (from a reliable source) or you might be advised to try white soft paraffin (Vaseline), and you may hear about the old wives’ tale of applying cooled soaked tea bags or cabbage leaves (there’s a lot of advice out there and not all of it will work) – just be mindful that these remedies may not be backed by clinical evidence and if you have any sort of a reaction to a product or your baby seems upset on the nipple then you should stop using them and speak to your midwife, GP or local breastfeeding support group:
- National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212; 9.30am to 9.30 pm 365 days a year.
- Sure Start Children’s Centre on the GOV.UK website
- La Leche League GB
I think I might be depressed. Is there anything I can do?
It is completely normal to be experiencing low and/or erratic mood on Day 7 post birth. Symptoms of Baby Blues usually begin a few days after birth and, for the majority of women, these will pass within a few weeks. Your chances of coming out of this phase quickly are enhanced by having supportive and understanding people around you to provide help and care for your baby and for you.
If symptoms last longer than this or feel particularly intense or intolerable, speak with your GP; there is help available.
How can I take care of myself and look after a new baby?
It is really important that you get enough rest at this stage. So sleep when your baby sleeps and make sure you get the help you need. But, any assistance must be on your terms. Unwelcome help or help that comes at the wrong times can be a drain on your mood. Practically, this could mean help with domestic tasks, help with childcare if you have other children, help with shopping and help with meals.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – many people will be very happy to assist you, but may not want to butt in or offer help out of the blue if you look like you’re coping.
Baby hasn’t had a bath yet. Should I do it now?
There is still no hurry. Topping and tailing baby will be alright for a few days yet. Changing your baby’s nappies before they get too wet and as soon as possible after a poo will ensure her skin stays healthy and rash free (and will make her a much happier baby, too).
What should I expect from baby Day 7 post birth?
Don’t be surprised if your baby still looks a little like Master Yoda (without the pointy ears of course). Don’t worry, she’ll soon uncrumple.
And your baby is not only like Yoda in appearance, she also has The Force – yes, she can seemingly make you do anything just by looking at your or making a few small noises. She seemingly only has open her mouth to cry and your breasts will leak milk – now that’s some power.
Your baby is already super intelligent: she recognises your voice, can see you from 20-30cm distance and is also familiar with your smell. She may even now be able to copy you. Try sticking your tongue out at her and see if she responds in kind. Also feel the force of her grip, whether it is using her hand to grip onto your finger or her mouth gripping onto your nipple.
A seven-day-old super power: no not science fiction – she’s biological fact! And both of you are fantastic.