Overview – What is it?
Postpartum refers to the period after childbirth when a baby is born, and the mother goes back to her pre-pregnancy state. This period can last for 6 to 8 months and usually occurs in 3 phases. The 3 main phases of the postpartum period are:
How to prepare for Postpartum
Having a new-born can be a great joy and it can be made an even better experience if you know what you need to do to prepare for your baby’s birth. Even though every postpartum is different for every mother, having knowledge on how best to be prepared for it, can give a mother confidence, security and comfort in her childbirth and new baby experience. So, how do you best prepare for this, especially if you are a first-time mother?
- Postpartum or new-born classes: You can choose to take classes to learn about postpartum care during which you can gain useful knowledge about how to take care of your baby, what to expect from your baby, as well as how to take care of yourself. If your partner is open to the idea, you may arrange to take the classes together which can turn out useful if, for example, your partner remembers something from the lessons that you forgot.
- Know what you need: The best way to get prepared for your new experience is by getting your baby’s supplies in advance to avoid the rush of getting them when your baby is already born. Some essential supplies to buy for your baby are:
- Diapers or nappies,
- Baby blankets to cover your baby,
- Unscented baby wipes or soft washcloths to clean your baby,
- Unscented baby soap,
- Unscented petroleum jelly for your baby’s skin,
- Baby nail clippers and blunt scissors for when you decide to cut your baby’s hair,
- Milk bottle and a bottle brush if necessary,
- Formula in case you do not have enough breast milk to feed your baby,
- Nasal aspirator in case your baby gets a cold,
- Enough new-born clothes: undershirts, one-piece pyjamas, sweaters and jackets, rompers, socks, hats, trousers, t-shirts, etc.
- A comfortable place for your baby to sleep; whether in a crib or your own bed.
- If your baby is to sleep in a crib, ensure you have clean soft beddings, and
- A bag to carry your diapers, and other essentials around when leaving the house or to use in organizing all your baby’s supplies.
Other things that may be necessary include a baby stroller, baby car seat, a baby monitor, and baby thermometer.
As a mother, whether a first-time mother or not, you need to remember to take care of yourself. Some of the essentials you need after giving birth are:
- Nursing pads
- Nursing bras
- Nursing pillow
- Nipple cream
- Breast pump
- Burping cloths
- Breast feeding clothes
What are some of the things that mothers should expect from their babies? Being a first-time mother can be both exciting and scary and by understanding some of the things your baby might do, you can feel more confident about raising your new-born.
- Your baby will feed often. Some babies feed every two or three hours.
- Your baby will need to burp frequently. Some burp on their own with very little help but others need help. If you notice your baby is restless or uncomfortable, you may need to burp him or her.
- Hiccups are normal, even for babies, so if your baby gets hiccups do not be alarmed.
- New-borns will have at least 5 wet diapers a day and if your baby is being fed with formula, he or she might have up to 10 wet diapers a day.
- The baby’s breathing is something that can make first-time mothers alarmed. It is perfectly normal for your baby to breath quickly, pause for a few seconds and start breathing again.However, if your baby experiences the following symptoms, you should consider seeing a doctor:
- Consistent fast breathing,
- Chest retractions,
- Wheezing from the chest instead of the nose,
- Heavy noisy breathing,
- Flaring of the nostrils,
- Grunting, and
- Pausing for more than 10 to 15 seconds between breaths
- New-borns cry and that is completely normal. Don’t get anxious and worried because crying is normal for a baby and the only thing that changes is how often, how hard and how long cries last. A baby cries when hungry, when uncomfortable (for example, if the diaper is wet) and even when he or she wants attention, not only when sick. However, if the crying becomes too much, you may need to pay close attention and even consider seeing your doctor to determine whether there is an underlying problem.
- When it comes to sleeping, all babies are different. Some may sleep longer than others, but one common thing is that you should expect your baby to wake up often to feed. Your baby might sleep for a total of 16 to 18 hours a day but if they do not, it is okay, every baby is different.
- A new-born’s skin may not look like the normal-looking skin you are used to and that is perfectly fine. Give your baby sponge baths and do not immerse him or her in water, especially that part to which the umbilical cord was attached. Make sure that your baby is not getting any skin irritations and if so, find out the cause and change whatever it is that is causing the irritation, whether it is soap, or clothing or even the oil you are using on the baby.
What are the potential complications for a baby?
After giving birth to your baby, you should monitor the baby closely to check for any symptoms that may indicate that your baby is suffering from a complication. Some complications that may arise include:
- Birth defects: These are health problems or physical changes which are present in a baby at the time of birth.
- Birth injuries: These occur during birth and can also be referred to as birth trauma. Examples of birth injuries include caput succedaneum, bruising or forceps markings.
- Hypoglycaemia: This condition involves having a lower blood sugar level than normal.
- Thrush: This is a yeast infection occurring in the mouth and throat of a baby.
What are the potential complications for a mother?
Every pregnancy is different, and it can be overwhelming. However, if you understand some of the potential complications you may face, you can be at a better position to handle what comes your way after childbirth. Some common complications are:
- Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH): This is when a woman loses at least 500ml of blood from the uterus or vagina due to retained placenta, endometrial infection and poorly contracted uterus, among other causes.
- Urinary tract infections: An infection in the urinary tract that causes a burning sensation when urinating.
- Puerperal mastitis: This is an inflammation of the breast due to bacterial infection.
- Puerperal sepsis and fever: A widespread bacterial infection of the reproductive tract after childbirth.
- Postpartum depression: This is a type of depression that occurs in women in the first weeks after childbirth. This condition is characterised by feelings of sadness, loss of self-confidence, feeling incompetent as a mother and feelings of guilt, among other symptoms.
Who do you see if you need help?
As stated earlier, every postpartum period is different for every woman. Knowing whom to see if you or your baby experiences any complications is also important. Some of the specialists you can visit are:
- A paediatrics specialist to deal with your baby’s health.
- Obstetrician/ gynaecologist if you experience complications like endometriosis and puerperal sepsis and fever, and other women’s health issues.
- Dietician or nutritionist to advise you on what to feed your baby with especially when it is time to start introducing your baby to other foods and not just breast milk.
- You can also see these specialists if you are having trouble getting enough breast milk for your baby.
- To know which foods to eat to lose baby weight.
- General practitioner if you or your baby is unwell.
- Psychologist or Psychiatrist if you may be suffering from Post-Partum Depression.
If your baby is experiencing a complicated health issue, you can be referred to other specialists such as a cardiologist for a heart condition.
Postpartum period is a crucial time for both mother and child and the best way to prepare for it is by gaining as much knowledge as possible to get you and your new bundle of joy through it.