Day 1 at home with your newborn
Batten down the hatches. “Try to keep visitors to a minimum for the first few days as you find your feet as a family. If your baby sleeps a lot today, don’t panic – catch up on some well-earned rest because you ‘ll feel incredibly tired,” says Sue Jacob, midwife teacher at the Royal College of Midwives.
“Use the answering machine amd call people back once you’re ready to talk,” says Katie, 33, mum to Jasmine, 8, Maisie, 5 and Libby, 1.
Also, prepare for bleeding, which can last up to six weeks. “Expect to bleed quite heavily at first, especially when you move around. Gradually it’ll change from bright to darker red or brown, and any clots will disappear,” says Michelle Lyne, a midwifery advisor for the Nursing & Midwifery Council.
“Stock up on maternity pads before you give birth. Normal pads aren’t designed for women who have just given birth – you’ll need more than that,” says Megan, 36, mum to Anna, 10 months.
Day 2 at home with your newborn
The midwife will call in today so expect to be examined down below if you’ve had stitches there. “She’ll examine your breasts, your uterus (by feeling your tummy), your bleeding and stitches, and then check your baby’s weight, muscle tone (strength), skin for jaundice or rashes, umbilical cord stump, fontanelles (soft spots) on her head, and her mouth for things like thrush,” explains Sue. She’ll also discuss your emotions and how your baby’s feeding and sleeping.
You may also notice that your baby’s poos are changing from a sticky greeny-black substance to a more watery yellow colour. Don’t worry, this is all normal.
Chances are you’ll wake up with swollen breasts today as this is around the time when your milk supply comes in. “The best solution is to put your baby to your breast to relieve the pressure,” says Sue. If you’re not able to breastfeed, take paracetamol to help any pain, and the swelling will subside in a few days when your milk supply dries up.
Day 3 at home with your newborn
You may be thinking about giving your baby a bath, but for the first week or so, a gentle wipe with cotton wool and cooled boiled water will do. Use the damp cotton wool to clean ears, eyes, face, neck, hands, the base of the umbilical cord and the nappy area.
If you’ve had stitches, the pain should be easing by now, and don’t panic if your stomach isn’t as flat as you’d like – your uterus needs time to contract.
Day 4 at home with your newborn
Some of the initial euphoria may have worn off leaving you feeling quite low. “Don’t worry, this is completely normal,” says Sue. “Sometimes a good cry helps, but if the feelings don’t go away, talk to your midwife.”
Your baby will be awake more now. “Cope with tiredness by napping when the baby naps,” says Sue.
You may feel ready for visitors but aim to keep any visits short to start with and try to time visits for when your baby’s awake.
Day 5 at home with your newborn
Midwife visit number two happens towards the end of the week. She’ll do checks, including a ‘heel prick’ test (taking a sample of blood from your baby’s heel to screen for conditions including sickle cell disorders and cystic fibrosis.) “The needle prick doesn’t really hurt but we recommend feeding afterwards to help soothe your baby,” says Michelle.
Your baby will be weighed again today, and is likely to have lost a little weight. “It’s OK for a baby to lose up to 10% of her birth weight. It’ll soon pick up,” reassures Sue.
If you’ve had a caesarean, you may have your stitches removed today.
Day 6 at home with your newborn
If you’re feeling up to it, why not go for a short walk to the park, or somewhere green, with your baby? You could even register the birth (by law you have to do this within 42 days).
“Blood loss should be changing colour by now,” says Michelle. “It should be a darker red or brown with fewer clots, but it still increases when you move around.”
“You may feel you’re getting into the swing of things, but still accept all offers of help,” Sue recommends.
Day 7 at home with your newborn
You’ve made it! It won’t be long (usually 10 to 21 days after birth) before your baby’s umbilical cord stump starts to shrivel. “Keep an eye on it,” says Michelle. “If it starts bleeding, mention it to the midwife. Otherwise, just wipe around the base with cooled boiled water and cotton wool.”
You’ve only been a mum for just over a week so don’t expect to be ‘perfect’. “Don’t try to be superwoman,” says Sue. “It’s OK to relax in your PJs and nap when you can!”