Exhale, Enjoy, Endure – A guide to the first 5 days postpartum

EXHALE – what you can be relieved about:

  • Labor is over! You did it, whether you delivered vaginally or by c-section, your baby is here. If you delivered at a birth center or hospital, you’ll be headed home within the first couple days most likely, and oh my – what a sweet comfort it is to be in your own bed!
  • Brand newborns are usually pretty sleepy during the first few days; you might even have to wake them up to eat! This can come as a relief to newborn mothers who are exhausted from labor and were then expecting to be awake all night with a newborn. Don’t get too comfortable; most babies start to “wake up” after the first week or so. But enjoy the 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep while you can (consult your doctor or a lactation consultant regarding how long you should allow your newborn to go in between feeds at night – most agree 3-4 hours is fine).
  • Literally inhale and exhale. You can breathe! One of my favorite things about pregnancy being over was always the release of the pressure on my lungs.
  • You don’t have to pee all the time! Baby being outside means no more constant pressure on your bladder. (Note: You may actually pee a TON in the first 24-48 hours, and you should try to go as soon as you feel the urge. It’s your body’s way of getting rid of the excess fluid it had stored during pregnancy. See the other note about this below.)

ENJOY – what you can soak in:

  • I don’t think there is too much to say here – enjoy your baby! Cuddle as much as possible, breastfeed whenever he wants (or if he’s sleepy, make sure you try to get him to feed every few hours). Skin to skin is excellent for mommy and baby, and also for baby with other caregivers.
  • Enjoy the rest. Every brand new mother should be resting in bed for AT LEAST the first few days; try to enjoy this time as much as possible, even if you’re the “go go go” type. It won’t last, and it’s so important for your own healing. I always found that my mind was a little too preoccupied and excited about the baby to read, although some people may have more luck with that. My favorite thing to do is binge watch some shows or movies when I’m not staring at baby!
  • Enjoy having your food cooked for and served to you. For mothers of other young children, this is truly luxury. Even if it is your first, make sure you enjoy this and allow others to serve you during this time. And make sure you let people know your preferences; they want to make you happy and content, not make you crinkle your nose when they turn their back. 😉

ENDURE – The uncomfortable stuff:

  • Where to begin? If you’ve had a long and hard labor, your whole body is likely to be sore and tired. During your hospital stay, the nurses will probably “massage” your uterus – unlike a typical massage, it usually is very uncomfortable. It is for a reason though – it helps your uterus shrink back more quickly and ensures everything that needs to be expelled has been.
  • You’ll be bleeding, possibly a lot. Change your pad as often as you need to. The general rule after the first few hours is that if you soak a pad or more in 1 hour, call your doctor.
  • Depending on if you tore, how bad you tore, or if you got an episiotomy, there will be varying levels of pain around your perineum. Follow your providers instructions on care. A sitz bath is often recommended. My absolute favorite item postpartum is “New Mama Herbal Perineal Spray”.
  • You may sweat a lot for the first few days, especially at night! This is another way your body gets rid of excess fluid, and is due to the drastic change in hormone levels.
  • Speaking of hormone levels, your emotions may start to feel a little wonky. It’s important to accept your feelings as real, but it can also help to understand why these feelings are so pronounced right now.
  • Whether you are breastfeeding or not, your milk will probably come in within the first week. Breastfeed on demand during this time, as it will help establish your supply and also help your breasts to not become engorged.
  • If you’re on your 2nd or more birth, afterbirth pains can be terrible. Consult your caregiver on what painkillers you can take and how often.
  • For C-Section mamas, I recommend reading the book “The Essential C-Section Guide”. 

Check out The Alpha Parent’s Timeline of Postpartum Recovery for more details on what to expect right after birth. Timeline of a Breastfed Baby is also very helpful information!

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