The first days at home with your new baby

The real start of your new life with your baby only happens once you’re home – when you can really get to know each other!

Instead of shopping when you get home, have the things you need already there. Here’s what you’ll need ready for your return:

  • A car seat, already in place.
  • Nappies. 50 to 60 disposables to avoid any re-stocking in the first week. Reusables – 24 plus 6 plastic pants, nappy pins, box of liners (if you use them), and at least one bucket and a pack of steriliser (this number means you’ll wash a machine-load every couple of days) .
  • Feeding gear. Breastfeeding: two to three well fitting nursing bras, plus a packet of breast pads (you can use folded cotton hankies instead). Bottle-feeding: six bottles and teats, mixing jug; sterilising equipment; tins of formula milk (two 450g tins will be ample).
  • Toiletries for your baby: soap or baby bath liquid; baby wipes or baby lotion; cotton wool.
  • Sanitary pads for you: up to a couple of dozen in the first week.

Your baby’s care

  • Change your baby’s nappy approximately as often as you feed her – but there’s no need to do it each and every time if she’s feeding ‘little and often’.
  • Your baby’s bowel motions change over the first 7-10 days. At first, they’ll be tarry and sticky, changing to dark khaki and then bright daffodil-yellow in a breastfed baby, or pale fawn in a bottle-fed baby (though some baby formulas make the stools greenish). The community midwife (see below) knows what’s normal, if you see something you wonder about!
  • It’s nice to bath your baby, but you don’t have to. Finding the right time, when she’s not crying for a feed, sleeping, or actually feeding, is not easy. A daily top-and-tail is all a tiny baby needs to stay clean and fresh. This is the gentle ‘wipe-round ‘ with cotton wool, cleaning ears, eyes, face, neck, hands, plus nappy area. You’ll be shown how to do this in hospital.
  • Don’t bother with separate day and night clothing at this age. Aim for clean clothes every 24 hours, with a change after a nappy leakage, or vomiting, plus a clean bottom sheet in your baby’s sleeping place.
  • Your baby is safest sleeping on his back, and if in a cot, place him ‘foot to foot’ so he can’t crawl under covers and get over-hot.
  • In the day, keep your baby within earshot. Most new babies, once asleep, are undisturbed by household bustle (though a sudden loud noise may wake them). At night, you’ll find your baby’s easiest to care for near you. You can move him to his own room, if you prefer, later.
  • Your baby may appear unsettled when you first arrive home. Some babies are sensitive to the change. It’s also normal for babies to need feeding more often from about day three or four after the birth. Broken nights are normal, too, and your baby may find it hard to get back to sleep once awake – even after a feed. This is likely to get better. Don’t assume the pattern of the first few days at home will remain for the next few weeks or months.

Your own needs

  • You will be tired – maybe more tired than ever before. Even if the birth has been straightforward, you need a daily rest and some early nights. If you’ve had a long labour, and/or a caesarean section, take things even more easily.
  • Accept all offers of help – but suggest your volunteers tackle cooking and household tasks rather than baby care. This is the time for you and your partner to get to know your baby, and to enjoy the first experiences of family life.
  • Keep life peaceful. You may not even want visitors If they outstay their welcome, a tactful withdrawal, saying you need to lie down, and a promise to phone later, won’t offend anyone.
  • Remember to eat well. Breastfeeding mothers, especially, often feel hungrier and thirstier – often actually during a feed. You’ll find it’s easier to have drink at your elbow before you sit down to feed, plus the occasional high-energy snack such as a cheese sandwich, or a banana.

Your Physical care

  • The community midwives are responsible for your care, and your baby’s care, after you’ve left hospital up until the 28th day after the birth. In practice, most community midwives ‘hand over’ to the health visitor round about day 10, if there are no outstanding problems.
  • A midwife visits as often as she thinks necessary – that could be daily, or even once every two to three days. Don’t expect her to take any notice of how untidy your house is! She is there to support you through these early days, and to perform routine checks to make sure you and your baby are well.
  • Her check includes your blood pressure and temperature, and she will feel your abdomen, to check your uterus is getting down to a non-pregnant size. She may also ask about your general health (including your bowels), and about your vaginal discharge. It’s normal to shed lochia – the debris from the womb – for at least a couple of weeks, and sometimes longer (any large, sudden bright red blood loss is, however, not normal. Seek medical advice).
  • She will remind you about doing your post-natal exercises, and show you what to do if you’ve forgotten.
  • She’ll also check the feeding’s going well, and help with any problems. She may weigh your baby, but if there’s no reason to suspect a problem, she may not, particularly if it means disturbing a sleep.
  • She will take a small pinprick sample of blood from your baby’s heel, unless this has been done in hospital. This is the Guthrie test, used to check for a rare digestive condition called PKU.
  • If you need help between visits from your midwife, call the telephone number she gives you. Day or night, there is always a duty midwife available.

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