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Following birth

Congratulations on the birth of your baby(s) and the beginning of a wonderful journey. The following information aims to assist you to understand the emotional and physical changes that can occur in your new role as a parent. It is, however, only a guide as each woman and her family may require different information and care depending on their circumstances. If you think that something may be wrong at anytime, trust your own judgement and get in touch with your doctor or midwife straight away.

Maternity ward general information

In the past, new mums spent up to 5-7 days in hospital - our grandmothers even longer. Now many new mothers benefit from settling into home as soon as possible following the birth of their baby. The earlier the new baby is introduced into the family environment, the easier it is for brothers and sisters to adjust and less separation for mum and the family, also only your baby disturbing your sleep.

Provided you and your baby are well, you may choose to go home when your baby is 6 hours old, alternatively you and your baby may be transferred to the maternity ward. If you decide to stay, let the staff know when you would like to go home as many things have to be planned and organised before the morning of your discharge. You and your family can expect and plan to take your baby home within 6-48 hours after a normal vaginal birth and within three days after a caesarean birth.

It is important to take your baby to your GP for a check-up 5-7 days after birth and to visit your GP again at 6 weeks after birth.

Caring for you after the birth

Lots of changes occur in a very short space of time when you become a new parent and it is important to ensure you have as much support as you need. This will be different for everyone but may entail having someone to help you when you get home: to cook a meal, do a load of washing or help out with the other children. Don't be afraid to ask for help. For further information on what to expect following birth and caring for yourself, visit the Health Direct, Australia website.

Postnatal blues

The "postnatal or baby blues" refers to a range of feelings you may experience around the 3rd or 4th day after your baby is born. The "blues" are very common, with more than 80% of new mothers experiencing them.

These feelings may include being tearful, irritable, mood changes, over tired, anxious and feelings of sadness or loneliness.

These feelings are thought to be caused by a number of factors, including sudden changes in hormone levels after childbirth, breastfeeding hormones, adjustment to parenthood and sleep deprivation.

These feelings should disappear after a few days and no specific treatment is required, apart from recognition, empathy and support from family and friends. However, if these feelings persist for longer than two weeks, you should seek professional help from your GP or Child Health Nurse.

Normal vaginal blood loss

Immediately after childbirth, your vaginal blood loss may be quite heavy and bright red. This bleeding will decrease over the next few days and gradually lighten in colour, changing from red to pink to brownish in colour. However, some vaginal discharge / spotting may be present for up to 4 - 6 weeks after birth.

It is important to note that blood loss and period like cramping may increase during breast feeds due to the release of hormones, which cause your uterus to contract. This will settle down in a few days. If this occurs, Paracetamol, 20 minutes before a breastfeed is safe to take. Please see your doctor as soon as possible if you have a sudden increase in your blood loss once you are home.

You should tell your Midwife or GP if:

  • you start to lose clots
  • you have to change your pads more than hourly
  • your blood loss becomes bright red and heavy again 
  • the blood loss has an offensive smell
  • you are worried for any reason.

Caring for baby

Babies are born with built in reflexes and mechanisms to assist them to have all their needs met. Fussing, crying and showing certain reflexes is how they communicate what they want. Being with your baby as much as possible helps you to learn your baby's cues and respond to their needs. Here is a short video to explain normal baby behaviour and some settling suggestions.

Rooming in

Unless baby/s need to go to the Special Care Nursery, baby/s room in with their mums 24 hours a day. This encourages mums and babies to get to know each and allows you to be responsive to your baby's needs.

Safety and security in the hospital

To keep baby safe and secure in hospital, we suggest the following:

  • Wash your hands before touching or cuddling baby
  • Wheel baby in their cot (not carried in your arms) should you need to move around the unit for bathing etc.
  • Your baby should have 2 identification bracelets attached to their ankles at all times. These will be checked against your arm band if you and your baby are separated for any reason.
  • Safe infant sleeping (in hospital)
  • Having a baby can be tiring work so it is not uncommon for women to feel exhausted and sleep deprived. No mum ever means to fall asleep when holding their baby in bed, so here are a few helpful hints to keep baby safe if you have them in bed with you for any reason (this is known as bed sharing).

Bed sharing (when baby is in bed for any reason with mum)

  • be sure to tell the midwife if you plan to bed share
  • both bed rails up if bed sharing
  • don't sleep with baby in the bed if you are really tired or sedated

Safe infant sleeping (at home)

  • Sleep baby on their back at all times
  • Head and face uncovered
  • Smoke free environment
  • Safe sleeping environment: Safe cot, firm mattress, safe bedding
  • Sleep baby in the same room as their parents for first 6-12 months in their own cot
  • Safe sleeping place: day and night
  • Safe settling strategies - infant wrapping
  • Tummy time when awake
  • Breastfeeding
  • Immunisation

For further information on Safe infant care, visit the Health Direct, Australia website or to watch a short video visit the Sids and Kids website.

Feeding

All mothers who wish to breastfeed are encouraged and assisted to do so as soon as possible following birth. We respect your decision as to how you wish to feed your baby and every effort will be made to assist you with the method you choose.. Please see Support for feeding my baby for more information.

Hepatitis B vaccination

The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recommend that all Australian babies are vaccinated against Hepatitis B. The first vaccination is offered before you leave hospital with your baby. A further three doses are given from two months of age onward, using combination vaccines when other vaccines are due. The four doses are recommended to provide long term protection against this disease. You will be given an information sheet about Hepatitis B and if you would like your baby to have this vaccination, you will need to sign a consent form. Please ask your midwife or doctor if you have any questions or for further information, visit the Parenting and Child Health website.

Vitamin K for your baby

Vitamin K is necessary to help blood clot and is essential to prevent serious bleeding. There is a rare disease called Haemorrhagic disease of the newborn which can be prevented by giving babies a dose of Vitamin K at birth. The most common way to give this is by one injection soon after birth. It may also be given orally but three doses are required to give protection as Vitamin K is not well absorbed orally.

Medical recommendations are that all babies receive Vitamin K, as this is a very simple way to prevent this rare disorder. You will receive information about Vitamin K throughout your pregnancy or for further information, visit the Parenting and Child Health website.

Universal newborn hearing screening

The Healthy Hearing Program aims to detect permanent hearing impairment by providing free screening to babies, ideally prior to the baby's discharge from hospital.

For further information, visit the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening website.

Newborn screening test

The newborn screening test or "heel prick" as it is known is routinely performed when babies are about 48 hours old. The test screens for rare health conditions to ensure problems are detected early ensuring prompt diagnosis and treatment. For more information visit the Health Direct, Australia website.

Last updated 17 May 2015
Last reviewed 17 May 2015

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